There is more than shaking, stirring and building drinks.
Modern mixology is using various techniques, which result great drinks, if applied correctly.
On this page I will show different techniques, which I apply, to exceed expectations – starting basic bartending techniques over gelatin-clarification, over infusions and not ending with blue-blazer flaming.
There will be also some thoughts about techniques, which might be contemporary, but are in my eyes not very useful.
Basic Drink Preparation
Every bartender knows, that there are 3 basic techniques of drink preparation:
But almost no “average” bartender knows, that there are important points, which should be incorporated in the respective technique.
The most important: TIME
A cocktail needs to be at least 20 seconds shaken or stirred! Only after around 20 seconds, the adequate target temperature [which is surprisingly -3 to -7°C]. If this temperature is not met, it is analogue to a several degree too warm wine – the drink would be at least unpleasant in the worst case undrinkable.
ICE is another factor, which is especially important for drinks, which are served on the rocks. The ice shape has to be adequate to the respective recipe.
The style of shaking or stirring is highly debated – I would recommend to develop an own style [or make someone else’s style ones own].
This technique is used in the mis em place stage. beverages which are cloudy and low or free of alcohol, can be enriched with gelatin or agar-agar and frozen. Then they can be thawed [in the fridge] over a cheese cloth – the gelatinous matter will hold on all impurities and one will end up with a clear liquid [can still be colored].
Usually this is important for presentation purpose – however also the mouthfeel will be different. Due to the complicated method, it is not advisable to overuse it.
There are different methods of infusions:
Time bound method:
A spirit is infused several days to several months with botanicals like spices, fruits, herbs etc. Agitation increases the effect and shorten the time.
Disadvantage is definitely the time. But also the result – while some infusion flavors are working fantastically with time [especially if sugar has to dissolve in a botanical] – fresh produce changes often unfavorably the flavor. E.g. fresh herbs, usually never taste fresh after a longer period – neither do fruits. Advantage is, that it is the most traditional and proven method. And creative things can be done with this, like rum infused in a coconut.
Vacuum infusion method:
Botanicals are given into a liquid [spirit, simple syrup] and vacuumed [food saver]. Due to the vacuum, the cell membranes of the botanicals are flooded with the liquid and the release of the vacuum releases the liquid out of the cells.
A repetitive process increases the concentration of the flavors. Usually this can be made by every hotel bar – as most hotels have a vacuum machine anywhere in the kitchen [usually butchery]. Advantage: very fast and easy; great for mis em place syrups and infusions. Disadvantage: a bit more effort for the staff; even commercial vacuum machines tend to break down; liquid has to be closely observed, as liquid starts to boil rapidly under minimum pressure.
Rapid NO / CO2 infusion method:
Small cut botanicals and the liquid are given into an espuma siphon and are charged with NO [cream capsule] – in exceptions with CO2 [soda capsule – limited use, as CO2 imparts an additional sour flavor and is not as efficient as nitrogen].
The liquid is swirled for ca. 30 seconds in the siphon, then the pressure is released as fast as possible [be carefully, that the liquid is sprouting out of the valve]. The process is similar to the vacuum infusion method, however even more effective. Due to the cost of the capsule, it is also far more expensive. The advantage is, that it can be done directly in the bar – and while the liquid should rest a couple of minutes after the release of the gas, it can still be used for a cocktail made to order.